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Summary: An article on leagalism excerpts taken from a Book by Jack Stewart, The Legalist A must read!


"I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel;" Galatians 1:6

Have you ever swam in the ocean and been so distracted with the waves that you forgot to keep your eyes on the shore? It doesn’t take long before we can slowly drift down the beach without even realizing it, does it?

Legalism works the same way. It seeks to distract us from dependence and trust in Jesus to trusting in our performance. It comes at us at a hundred miles per hour, all day, everyday. It doesn’t jerk you abruptly over into its clutches. Instead, legalism slowly, almost imperceptibly, pulls us under until one day we turn around and we’ve lost sight of the shore.

A day in the life of a legalist is filled with trying to become and never arriving! He seems not to know that Christ means the end of the struggle for righteousness by the law for everyone who believes in Him so he fights bravely and hopelessly on!

Dwelling in a perpetual winterland of barrenness, where the cold blasts of condemnations and despair chill his soul, he rarely sees the sunlight of God’s love and acceptance! Clouds of doubt and fear overcast the Father’s face, which he imagines to be more critical than compassionate, frowning than forgiving.

A legalist’s day is usually joyless, lifeless, drab, and bound. He is slave to rules: what to eat, drink, wear, and where of where not to go. His life is nearly unbearable! Vainly thinking that doing will achieve being. He forgets that God says, “be ye holy.” Holy living flows out of holy being, but evidently he does not understand, so he strives and struggles to lay hold of righteousness that is forever beyond his reach!

Bible reading, praying, giving, and witnessing are usually looked upon as obligations rather than joyous opportunities for the building and exercising of his faith. The pharisaical straitjacket he wears fails to make him holy and also fails to make him look like he is, so he is deprived of the joy of true holiness! (Allowing Christ to live His life through him.)

What is a day in the life of a legalist really like? Well, it usually bleak and troubled, self-righteous, or arrogant: it depends on his stance. Mean or miserable, oppressive or oppressed, he cannot rejoice in a right relationship with God! The un-kept vows, neglected duties, and disobeyed commandments afflict his conscience until his kind of Christianity is filled with pain! From such religious slavery he needs to be freed, but until he sees Jesus Christ as the all-sufficient answer to his quest for holiness of heart and life, he will labor in his chains!

The legalist can be saved from his days of defeat and failure. And the Savior is the One who died for him on Calvary and was raised again so he can be saved by His life– He is the Liberator!

Legalism’s icy breath destroys the budding flowers of God’s grace, and thereby robs its followers of the possibility of the fruit of the Spirit! This humanistic religion, as old as the fall of man, deprives its disciples of fellowship with the Creator, while pretending to urge them on to holiness and victorious living. Thriving on rules rather than a relationship, it often cloaks a rebellious spirit with the outer garment of seeming righteousness. But spiritual paupers robed in the royal purple of self-righteousness are paupers still!

The joy of the Lord and the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ are forever out of the reach of those who try to attain them by keeping the Law. "For as many as are of the works of the Law, are under the curse; for it is written: Cursed is every one that continues not in all things which are written in the book of the Law to do them." (Gal 3:10). And yet, multitudes attempt to gain holiness and peace by their own works!

Doing is the fruit of a right relationship with God; it is NOT the root! And the source of all right doing is right being. In Psalm 1:3, the words "He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water", precedes, "and whatsoever he does shall prosper."

Legalism is under the curse! Satanic in origin and devastating in its effects, it dominates great numbers of people with its tyranny. Promising life but ministering death, it substitutes rules for the reality of Christ’s transforming love and grace. The counterfeit Christianity that results from this exchange is without life and power. Paul’s words to the Galatians- “Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law, ye are fallen from grace (Gal 5:4)- are fitting and deserve to be remembered!

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